03.10 2009

The Proposal

THE PROPOSAL

Updated March 2014.

The UK has a football industry which is a major global export. Why ? TV money ? No – this came second. What came first was physical football stadiums built around the country (and not just in North and West London).

The West Midlands had a superb skill-base for conferences and conventions but until the NEC, ICC  and other physical facilities were built then it could not go to work and generate vast revenues (and taxes).

Buildings matter.

To have a national industry, they must be spread throughout the nation.

1.   SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.com seek The Government to use all Lottery Money ringfenced for the film industry, regeneration finance finance, EU regional and electronic media finance to  facilitate and build sound stages and sets around the UK.

To do so where it is both needed and most wanted, in  Wiltshire, North Oxfordshire, The West Midlands, and to then in future years to expand it in the North-West, the South-West, The North-East, The East Midlands, Scotland, North Wales and other UK regions with huge empty ex-industrial land bases. To create this  vital national strategic infrastructure where it will be most cost-effective and most accessible. This includes a genuine  National Film Screen Craft Academy.

2. SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.com seek The Government in future years to expand the integrated  infrastructure from Wiltshire and The West Midlands into Cornwall and Scotland, Wales and The East of England to create a truly unique competitive advantage to The UK as a magnet for film and TV investment.

3. (BTW we accept that five years on, this demand has been so unheeded as to be almost futile to attempt now)

SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.com seek The Government to lock down use of the global brandnames Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios to remain solely within The UK as vital national strategic assets.

At very least to be confined to The EU. This will tear up any renewal of agreements with China, Canada, Malaysia, USA, to let them trade under the Pinewood brandnames  to get the $100 million to $300 million Hollywood Studio sub-contracts and jobs. Even under EU law the French have no difficulty in protecting vital strategic assets such as yoghurt factories.

4. (We accept that this has been so unheeded as to be five years on an almost futile demand)

SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.com seek that Government will  ensure that the Pinewood and Shepperton Brand names remain in the UK but become vital resources to the entire UK  on a regional as well as national and international level.

It is as the Chinese Government has said in 2010 ‘soft power’ in foreign policy and hence a vital national security asset and can be a much more potent asset by UK expansion of the brand.

This  expansion across the UK will create a £25 billion film annual revenue, TV, merchandising, gaming, tourism industry across The UK and be a magnet for all manner of private sector investment. It will in itself create 250 000 jobs especially for Neets, regenerate and add glamour to run down cities and regions. Plus attract in private sector investment in businesses and jobs wanting to be near the media glamour movie making brings.   It will create inspiration, hope and pay packets. It will enable Britain to be The Big Society.

It can be a real antidote to the cynicism, lack of hope, riots, despair, misery, pessimism, alienation which is felt across the UK.

It will help London (which is very fat and getting fatter through sheer greed and selfishness) to slim down to a much healthier, happier level where quality of life and rebirth of genuine community spirit soars.

5. SAVE THE BRITISH FILM INDUSTRY.com ideally urge the UK Government to take a Golden Share in Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios to ensure their historic lands  will never be sold off for the commercial land values which by dint of West London location vastly outweigh the film factory facility for hire value.

Save The British Film Industry urged The Government in October 2009 to snap up the whole company Pinewood Shepperton plc, then valued on The Stock Market at around £55 million. The Lottery Money ring fenced for film making generates this every two years. The previous and present Government were too dim to see the opportunity and continue to play Russian Roulette with Pinewood and Shepperton’s  future.

For example, by the end of this week Mr or Mrs X win the Lottery. Let us say £160 million which has happened. Or a mere £45 million which is now routine. They decide they want a West London pad which has low to no crime, quiet, secluded, spacious, excellent security, picturesque, loads of history, legions of prestige and twenty-five minutes from Oxford Street and less to Heathrow airport. They offer to buy Pinewood or Shepperton or both. There is every possibility the sale will go through and film making cease.

The owners of Pinewood and Shepperton are property developers NOT film makers. Their lawful business is buying land, doing it up (which may just consist of change of use) and selling it on at a profit.

6. Save The British Film Industry urge the Government to intervene, whether by a phone call to BFI or whoever, and just get it majority owned by the nation NOT available overnight to be a car park, supermarket, distribution centre, bunch of warehouses, housing estate or offices.

EU law is NOT the issue, although Civil Servants bamboozle ministers with this when it suits them. In France they would decide it is vital to the national security interest (as they did with Yoghurt production) and thus permit the Government to protect it.

The issue is the Will to intervene to remove a nightmare scenario which can strike in 24 hours.

The very wise Chinese Foreign Minister noted that film making is ‘soft power’ in foreign policy. The Foreign Office and Home Office should take this very seriously.

The Coalition Government excludes people such as John Hemming MP (LibDem) who are clued in to how important the media infrastructure is (Hemming) and how real life and business works .  The film business is 100% about ‘who you know’ and ‘who you can get to know’ and zip to do with courses, qualifications, training, committees, reports, papers, press releases, etc

The reality is that close proximity to a film studio determines over 99% of access to jobs in the film industry in the UK unless the family have worked in it (often for three and four generations).

The volume of work is also a crucial factor. The importance of Pinewood and Shepperton Film Studios is that – although they do not invest in films and have not done so for 35 years – their huge sound stages attract in the $300 million movies such as ‘Pirates of The Caribbean’ , 007 and ‘Star Wars’ which employ British based film workers. Once this goes elsewhere, then the jobs go elsewhere.

The other assets Pinewood and Shepperton have is reputation and the personal contacts with Hollywood Studio executives, producers and other big budget film financiers. These are now officially being used to promote the interests of non-UK based film making.  These are being used to bat for The Chinese, The Malaysian, Canadian, the German and the Atlanta Georgia USA and other film industries and employment there.

Again if The Government buys this vital national asset, it can stop the asset batting for other economies (whom we wish well but are big boys able to build and then market their own studio facilities without getting a UK asset to do so for them).

Following the  takeover  by property developer John Whittaker via Peel Pegasus and the now failed granting of planning permission for houses to be built on the 105 acres of greenbelt land, the government can negotiate a deal. Whittaker has much bigger fish to fry in nearly 300 companies and an empire of over 33 000 acres. The Government could find ways to help his business empire in exchange for Pinewood and Shepperton coming into national ownership.

This prevents any private owner just selling off the 273 acres of Pinewood and Shepperton for retail or houses, closing 34 sound stages in the process. It is these sound stages which magnetise in the inward investment.

Meanwhile The Government must insist that the owner expand the Pinewood and Shepperton brand around the UK but not outside the EU. To terminate the selling of the British Film Industry flagship brand names to non-EU countries.

Pinewood and Shepperton can be given up to 50 000 acres of ex-industrial land across The West Midlands, Wiltshire, Staffordshire, Oxfordshire, Yorkshire, Wales, Scotland to build the greatest concentration of sound stages and film sets and tourist sites and theme parks which double as film and TV sets. This blesses the Pinewood Studios brand, gives them a staggering land base (of land no-one else wants to buy and employ people on) and makes the UK have more sound stages, sets and trained film crew than the rest of the world put together. This will suck in film and TV finance in every language. It will turbo-charge tourism. It will gentrify, beautify, glamourise the unlovely parts of The UK and attract in private sector investment in every business field.

This is to ensure the company survives as a film factory vital infrastructure facility based in The UK.

7. Other than that The Government must assist a genuine British based competitor to Pinewood Shepperton viz sound stage provision across the UK. Increasingly this is the only option left to get a 250 000 strong UK film job market with £25 billion annual revenues.

Jonathan Stuart-Brown

www.savethebritishfilmindustry.com

Screen shot 2010-08-25 at 19_23_50

  1. How about we use the faliure of a venture that is The Public in West Bromwich for something really valuable and turn this into our West Midlands Film Factory??……

  2. AM_Dolores,
    It is ironic that for The £72 million spent on it that West Brom could have bought all the shares in Pinewood Shepperton PLC and owned it. Because the West Midland and Black Country still have huge revenue, we can afford to make these type of mistakes. Pinewood Shepperton PLC however is knife edge financially with only £3 million profit expected in a good year after several excellent years of it being in demand and with competitive edge BEFORE the new state of the art French Studio in paris comes online in 2012. It is being built expressly to compete with Pinewood Studios and Shepperton Studios for the big Hollywood financed blockbusters. Pinewood may make an operating loss next year and is being carried by TV contracts which could be withdrawn to meet regional allocation criteria. So If Pinewood fails to get planning permission in four days time, then Pinewood will have wasted three years and many millions plus take a hit to its international reputation. The sheer scale of the West Midland and Black Country revenue, the huge number of giant industrial area available (which makes Pinewood Studios look really small), the nearness of the huge Sutton Park,
    Cannock Chase, Walsall Arboretum, the manufacturing skill and work ethic of people who built Rolls Royce + Jaguar + Cadburys + Aston Martin + Landrover + MG + NEC + ICC, the realism about wage levels, the size and wealth of the Universities in the region and 8 Colleges in Birmingham alone, the proximity of Warwick Castle and Shakespeare’s Stratford-on-Avon…and the hunger, passion and enthusiasm of this huge region to make Pinewood and the film industry a cornerstone of regeneration and international prestige…..well Pinewood Shepperton Board just might register that it is an option worth considering. The West Midlands is a Giant and Pinewood may soon need a Giant Benefactor.
    Pinewood is just over 100 acres. The expansion 100 acres. Shepperton is 60 acres.
    Teddington is about 10 (and still has 8 TV studios).
    The Public could be one site or post-production facility. Do you know how big it is ?
    Elstree which is not part of the Pinewood Group is 15 acres. This was still big enough to do a few little movies such as STAR WARS !
    Ealing is now only 4 acres but still gets some stuff done.
    Can The Public be expanded if more space is needed ?

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